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Islamophobia In East-Central Europe

It is typically mentioned that anti-Semitism continues to exist in Poland even within the absence of a big Jewish group. The latest Polish film Aftermath, a few farmer who uncovers the horrible truth about his village’s remedy of its Jewish community throughout World Struggle II, makes that time vividly and tragically.

The same may be mentioned about Islamophobia. It too has taken root in international locations in East-Central Europe where the Muslim populations are miniscule, like Poland and the Czech Republic. Anti-Islamic sentiment has additionally flourished in areas further south the place the unfold of the Ottoman Empire left sizable Muslim communities in Albania, former Yugoslavia and Bulgaria. A few of this Islamophobia is racism toward indigenous populations; some is xenophobia in opposition to immigrants.

“Islamophobia gets all combined up with chauvinism towards indigenous communities: anti-Turkish, anti-Bosniak, anti-Tatar parts,” Taskin Tankut Soykan told me in a gathering in Warsaw in August 2013 when he was working for the Group on Safety and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights as the adviser on Combating Intolerance and Discrimination towards Muslims.

“There are also racist components mixed in with this,” Soykan continued. “And it’s all one way or the other linked to historic conflicts. Muslims in the area have been accused of serving to the Ottomans in the course of the invasion of the Balkans. They were handled as traitors. In Greece, anti-Turkish chauvinism is combined with Islamophobia in a way to indicate how the Greeks were proper after they were saying that Islam was a risk to their country and at last the West is recognizing their position. In the meantime, they also spread racism and xenophobia towards immigrant communities, with neo-Nazi organizations bodily attacking Pakistanis and Middle Japanese folks. In Jap Europe anti-Roma sentiment is also blended in because many Roma folks have Islamic background particularly in Southeastern Europe. They are discriminated because they’re Roma and since they are Muslims.”

There have been incidents of hate crimes in Poland towards Muslims. However perhaps the oddest example of Islamophobia was a demonstration in Warsaw against the development of an Islamic cultural center that will also embrace a mosque. Soykan was there to observe the occasion.

“It was a really strange thing to observe,” he informed me. “There was a core group of maybe a hundred or one hundred fifty folks. A lot of them were not in reality from Poland. Quite a lot of them were effectively-dressed middle-class folks. They weren’t skinheads. They were part of this loose community referred to as Cease the Islamicization of Europe. Some Polish individuals attended this occasion. The actual organizers were making an attempt their finest to point out that they were not racist. They introduced in not only Buddhists but also people of African descent in order that you may see they were not racist. They were additionally displaying Israeli flags to point out that they weren’t anti-Semitic. The posters that they were utilizing were not particularly concentrating on Muslims. They at all times stated that they had been trying to focus on terrorists or radical extremists. Alternatively, they were saying that mosques have captain america super soldier t shirt been places where terrorists are recruited. Additionally they mentioned the Islam is just not a religion, however an ideology.”

Despite the protest, the center was eventually constructed.
In Bulgaria, meanwhile, the grand mufti sent a list to the OSCE of greater than a hundred incidents of captain america super soldier t shirt hate crimes against Muslims. “None of them had been prosecuted,” Soykan reported. “Not even one investigation had been launched. We immediately decided to go to Sofia. We had conferences with civil society organizations from all communities: LGBT, Jewish, Roma, additionally refugees. All of them had been telling us that hate crimes against Muslims have been a difficulty in Bulgaria. However after we began speaking to authorities officials from the ministry of justice and the prime minister’s workplace, they informed us precisely the opposite, that there was no downside, that Bulgaria was a European Union member state, and that such things couldn’t happen in a European country. They have been very offended at the office of the grand mufti for sending data to a world organization. They had been principally saying that the mufti was mendacity.”

Soykan met with the vice minister of interior. “I confirmed him footage of graffiti, the destroyed gates of mosques, the vandalism of graveyards, and that i could see that he was turning red,” he continued. “He was actually disturbed. He said that he’d by no means seen these incidents before. He’d by no means been informed. However we knew that the European Court of Human Rights had made various choices indicating that the Bulgarian authorities had violated their obligation to look into the motivation of the crimes once they happened. So the vice minister of justice must have been aware of the situation.”

However out of this effort, the OSCE and Bulgaria agreed to determine a coaching of law enforcement officials on hate crimes. “Afterwards, we signed MOUs with several other countries, but Bulgaria was the first,” Soykan associated. “The program is named Deal with, and now we’re coaching many legislation enforcement officers. This undertaking in reality is implemented with the police academy. We devise the curriculum and we practice trainers, and these trainers start training other police officers.”

Due to the improved communication, Muslims in Bulgaria have begun assembly with the police and chief prosecutor on hate crimes. In addition, an OSCE training module for imams in Bulgaria on recognizing and reporting hate crimes has been adapted for use all through Europe.

We began by talking concerning the range of the Muslim communities in East-Central Europe after which moved on to discuss media representations, cases on the European Courtroom of Human Rights, and the future of Islam and Islamophobia in Europe.

The Interview
You talked about the variety of the Muslim group right here in Poland, and the variations between the indigenous Muslim neighborhood and the Muslims who are coming right here from outside the nation.

This is not only in Poland. In different international locations too, there is the same notion. But it is extra seen here. Normally, the Tatars are recognized as the indigenous Muslims of Poland. They’re properly built-in and are thought of Polish Islam. They are certainly fairly completely different from Muslims in different elements of Europe or within the Center East in lots of respects.

For example a few years in the past, there was a visit of a Saudi delegation to Poland to determine industrial relations between the 2 international locations. Poland needed to point out that Islam is a part of the culture of the country. They needed to take the Saudi delegation to go to the Tatar mosque in Bialystok within the jap a part of the nation. But when they saw this mosque, the delegation was stunned: the mosque did not appear like a mosque. It didn’t have a proper minaret. It regarded like a type of church. Nonetheless the delegation needed to proceed.

After they approached the mosque, they saw the imam sitting at a table in the courtyard. They said hey. But once they got here shut, they realized that he was sitting there with a glass of vodka. This was an enormous surprise for the Saudi delegation. They stated, “This is not Islam.” However from the Polish aspect, it was their Islam!

I witnessed something related when the Group of Islamic Conference organized a conference on Muslim communities in Eastern Europe. The mufti of Poland was cohosting the event. He came to the opening ceremony along with his spouse. She was carrying a miniskirt. For a lot of imams and sheiks, this was fairly shocking. However for the Polish mufti, this was fairly normal.

So in this fashion you can also see how the picture of Islam is constructed in Poland. Poles at all times need to tell apart “our Islam” from overseas Islam. If they want to say one thing detrimental about Islam, they are saying that it is exterior, that it seems to be different and is coming from the skin. In a means, they are normalizing and legitimatizing xenophobia in opposition to certain groups. Immigrant communities always fear that they are remoted due to their religion. Even in the event that they share the identical religion as the indigenous people, they feel that it is not the same and that they can’t be a part of the societies. If they want to indicate their Muslim identification, they feel alienated. That is one of the the reason why, when they experience hate crimes, they do not go to the police. They keep it to themselves.

At one level, when representatives of the minister of justice needed to talk to the Muslim group about hate crimes, they got here to me to help with outreach. I talked to the representatives of the mosque in Wilanow, who were so anxious that police officers needed to pay a visit to the mosque. They thought that if the neighbors noticed police officers surrounding the mosque, they might instantly think that the mosque was a harmful place, that they have been doing one thing unhealthy and that’s why the police were there. For many different Muslims, for Tatars or Turks, this is not a big situation. But Muslims from the Middle East or Indonesia, who extra strongly identify themselves with the religion, have this perception. However this is not only particular to Poland. In different nations, you’d have similar problems.

As an illustration, in Moldova a pair years in the past, there was an enormous difficulty around the registration of the Islamic group. According to the regulation on religion, to be able to conduct religious ceremonies in communities, the religious neighborhood needed to be registered. In the event that they did not get registered, it was truly against the law. The Muslim community needed to be registered, but the minister of interior refused their utility as a result of it was made by Muslims with immigrant backgrounds — Muslims from the outside — who had been thought-about extra extremist, although they by no means committed any crime. After the refusal of their registration, they wished to continue their ordinary neighborhood practices. However once they conducted Friday prayers, they have been arrested and put in prison.

This couldn’t continue. So the Moldovans who had transformed and turn into Muslims had been encouraged to use for registration underneath a different organization, the Islamic League of Moldova. And their application was accepted. However there was a huge reaction from the Communist Get together and from the Orthodox Church. They organized demonstrations in entrance of the primary church, additionally in entrance of parliament. The government had to step again and reconsider the registration. In this captain america super soldier t shirt manner you’ll be able to see how the conflict between “our” religion and the “outdoors” religion performs out. It doesn’t assist to advertise any form of tolerance.

You can also see it in Western Europe within the rhetoric and discourse about the way to create a European Islam. In fact, in many locations in Jap Europe, there are massive indigenous Muslim populations — a Turkish minority in Greece and in Bulgaria, the neighborhood in Serbia in Sandjak, the Bosniak neighborhood in Bosnia, the Tatars in Ukraine, and all kinds of Muslim ethnic communities in Russia.

Islamophobia gets all blended up with chauvinism towards indigenous communities: anti-Turkish, anti-Bosniak, anti-Tatar parts. There are additionally racist components mixed in with this. And it is all by some means linked to historic conflicts. Muslims in the area have been accused of serving to the Ottomans through the invasion of the Balkans. They had been treated as traitors. In Greece, anti-Turkish chauvinism is blended with Islamophobia in a approach to show how the Greeks have been proper when they had been saying that Islam was a risk to their nation and finally the West is recognizing their place. Within the meantime, they also unfold racism and xenophobia in opposition to immigrant communities, with neo-Nazi organizations bodily attacking Pakistanis and Middle Eastern people. In Eastern Europe anti-Roma sentiment can be combined in because many Roma individuals have Islamic background especially in Southeastern Europe. They’re discriminated because they’re Roma and since they are Muslims.

Have there been hate crime cases right here in Poland motivated by Islamophobia
Sure, there have been some incidents. In Bialystok, this 12 months, an Egyptian particular person was attacked with an axe. He was hospitalized. He had darker skin and seemed like he may need been Muslim. You will note and hear this quite often. When you’ve got darker pores and skin and you come from the Middle East, folks suppose that you’re Muslim. There are incidents like this, but only a few of them make headlines. You need to go to the Muslim community and it’s important to ask. Then they’ll inform you. But first you have got to elucidate what a hate crime is. The understanding of hate crimes amongst Muslims is actually fairly low. They assume that only brutal assaults are hate crimes. They don’t see that if you are harassed on the bus because you might be sporting headscarf, it is a hate crime. Or hateful graffiti. They would not report it. Even in the event you ask. You want to talk with them and clarify to them what hate crimes are and provides some examples, and then you will see that many incidents take place.

Normally they do not take place in Warsaw. It’s largely in rural areas. Warsaw is turning into a bit more multicultural. The people here are getting used to people with totally different backgrounds. But nonetheless there are some locations in Warsaw, like Praga, which might be dangerous and you wouldn’t go there if you are sporting a headscarf. I can give you an inventory of those incidents. This late September, we can have an annual human rights assembly, and Muslim organizations will organize a aspect occasion to debate hate crimes and provide a extra detailed picture.

I read a quick description of an anti-mosque rally right here in Warsaw that had strange organizing partners. One of the partners was a Buddhist organization. They usually wee working with skinheads.

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